Mentally Ill Inmate Receives Last-Minute Stay, But It’s Unlikely To Last

Death Row Inmate John Errol Ferguson

Yesterday, a severely conservative panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit vacated a trial court’s decision to grant a stay of execution to John Errol Ferguson, a mentally ill Florida inmate who is a paranoid schizophrenic and believes that he is the “Prince of God.” The Supreme Court declined to review this decision last night.

Yet, in a somewhat surprising move, the same conservative court of appeals panel decided to grant a new stay of execution to Ferguson last night at 8pm — two hours after he was originally scheduled to be executed. This new stay, however, is unlikely to last long without Supreme Court intervention. Under the Eleventh Circuit’s rules, such a stay is mandatory when a lower court judge certifies that a substantial constitutional issue is present in the case — which the trial judge did do here — but the stay will only last long enough to allow the panel to fully consider the merits of the case. Given the extremely conservative panel Ferguson must now convince, his fate likely rests in the hands of the Supreme Court — the same Supreme Court which has twice declined to hear his case.